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Exhale: Towards Better Understanding

November 17, 2017

Exhale: Towards Better Understanding

Another Way for week of November 17, 2017 

I exhale a bit at my desk and a rumpled tissue and paper two feet away wiggle with the puff of breath from my slightly opened mouth. It somewhat startles me, but reminds me that in this world, what we do, say, hear, and believe affects others around us even when we don’t realize it.

As I write this it is Election Day in the U.S. I stay pretty far away from politics in this space largely because I get so tired of the rhetoric and the attack ads and the disappointments that come with every election that I don’t want to add to the pontificating. Plus this column appears in a variety of communities and until this year, also appeared in Canada so I’ve not been inclined to get too local or specific. And readers are often split in their viewpoints as well.

But. But, because we all live on the same planet (except those on the space station) what we do, say, hear and believe affects others around us.

Centuries ago an oft-quoted poet said it this way: “No man is an island.” If John Donne were writing that today, I’m sure he would say no one is an island, and that is just one way we are affected by others. Our language and expressions and way of looking at the world are impacted by the winds of change.

Here’s an excerpt from the poem, edited just a whit for the times:

No one is an island entire of itself; every person
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
… any one’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved with humanity.
Therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. –John Donne, 1624

As I write this we are also just days away from the latest mass killing, the latest huffing and puffing of politics and “was it this, was it that” and latest vigils, prayers for families, and weeping for those we do not know but know the bell could be for us or our families next.

How do we live like this? Why do I write this in the lead up to Thanksgiving? All of us who live should be so very grateful for the breath that puffs from our mouths or noses. I am alive for another day, to continue to try to think about things “another way” and influence as I am able, all of us to dream of better ways. Better ways than war, than misunderstandings, than just hand wringing after the latest horrifying event. We can start by trying to understand where others are coming from.

Retired editor Richard A. Kauffman wrote recently on Facebook of an experience sitting down with a men’s group which had a civil conversation about the Texas church shooting of early November.  He gave me permission to share it here:

Today we talked about responses to mass shootings in our country. We don’t all agree on that topic, but we had a very civil, respectful conversation. I got this fantasy: that we would serve as a fishbowl for a broader conversation around that topic, demonstrating that difference can be generative and can be dealt with constructively rather than in a contentious and polarized manner. The conversation reinforced for me also that most of the knotty problems our society is dealing with are moral and that political tactics get in the way of finding real and durable solutions to them.

As we approach Thanksgiving, for the sake of happier family gatherings, many of us draw in our breaths and cut off any conversation that hints of controversy. Perhaps respectful conversation is truly not possible in families where “irregular people” (Joyce Landorf’s memorable term decades ago for those who are just plain complicated or twisted in their personality or way of thinking) make that difficult.

But if we try to keep in mind respect and love for each other—especially in families—and try to really listen to each other and hear where the other is coming from, that can be at least a start to having those constructive conversations and action toward new solutions. On whatever the issue. Keep love for each other and God foremost in those dialogues. Do it for your mother or father, for your children or grandchildren, or for me.

And then exhale after a good Thanksgiving Day spent with loved ones.


What do you wish for most during this season of remembering blessings, even as we go through difficulties?


Name one deep gratitude you wish to share.

My thank you gift to all readers this year is a small 2018 lighthouse-themed monthly planning calendar, suitable for purse or pocket. Request it by mail from Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22850 or email me at

Another Way is a column © by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.



  1. Melodie, I like your adaptation of the John Donne excerpt and the Thanksgiving photo, which evokes so many happy memories.

    One deep gratitude? My piles of gratitude books that record heaps of blessings including the privilege of experiencing God’s grace. Every. Single. Day.

    I am sure you are thankful to be in your new digs before Thanksgiving. Peace and joy this season.

    • I admire you keeping gratitude books every single day over multiple years. I’ve done it for periods of time, but not long term. What a beautiful gift to yourself–and your Creator.

      Yes, our director planned wisely, although he tends to be “nimble” to use his term, in making plans or changing or adding direction. We didn’t have to be out until Dec. 31 but it is nice this hump/hurdle is past. Small things to iron out! Blessings to you as well.

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